Experts say to check your medicine cabinet

Posted: 1:52 PM EST Jan 21, 2013   Updated: 11:56 AM EST Mar 04, 2013

How often do you clean out your medicine cabinet?

Doctors say you should go through your medicine cabinet a couple of times a year and look for old and expired medications.

Over time, the chemical makeup and potency of medications changes.

Dr. Chad Jarrah, a pharmacist with Sacred Heart Hospital Health Care System said,
"Taking an expired medication is very risky. Expired medications are not only less effective but they could be toxic."

Dr. Jarrah is a busy man this time of year with cold and flu season in full swing. He sees how much medications cost, even over the counter ones, but he also sees what can happen if people aren't careful.

"I understand certain drugs might be expensive and people try to keep them as long as possible, even though taking one wrong drug could cost your life. But I really feel saving a few dollars is not worth risking your life," he added.

Also,look at where you're storing your medicines. Heat, cold, and moisture can affect a medication's potency.

Jarrah says, "A medicine cabinet should be in a controlled climate which means it should not be in the bathroom, should not be in the kitchen. They tend to be hot and humid."

Try a bedroom or foyer closet he says. Never save antibiotics. Create a child-proof area that can be locked and keep medication lids tightly closed. Keep your medications in the container they come in. Avoid mixing different pills in one container.

Keeping your medication in the original container helps insure that you are taking the medication you intend to take and in the dosage recommended. Be aware that taking older medications that aren't expired might not be safe for a person a year later.

"They might develop certain additional medical conditions, certain allergies or even age. As you get older, certain medications might not be suitable for you," Jarrah says.

When tossing old medicine, flush down the toilet to prevent ingestion by children and pets or put them in the trash.

Dr. Jarrah says, "The best way is to put them in a sealable bag and put them in with something like coffee just so they are less attractive to kids."

Don’t forget that eye drops expire just like any other medication.

Dr. Jarrah says if you have any questions about any of your medications, you should talk to your pharmacist.